‘Time is running out’

Butterfly scientists call on public for help as Butterfly Conservation launches Big Butterfly Count 2022

Katie Hill - Editor-in-Chief, My Green Pod

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Published: 15 July 2022

This Article was Written by: Katie Hill - My Green Pod

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Wildlife charity Butterfly Conservation is today (15 July) urging the whole nation to help Britain’s butterflies by taking part in the Big Butterfly Count.

Butterfly Conservation revealed in May that half of Britain’s remaining butterfly species are now on the Red List and threatened or near threatened with extinction.

Last year’s Big Butterfly Count saw the lowest ever number of butterflies recorded. As butterflies and moths are an important indicator of the health of our environment, a reduction in their numbers is a cause for serious concern.

Bringing species back from the brink

Taking part in the Big Butterfly Count is one really positive way that everyone can help.

The information gathered is vital in helping scientists understand more about what is happening to the nation’s butterflies and therefore put in place the conservation measures needed to protect them.

In recent years Butterfly Conservation has helped save two species from extinction in the UK and halted the decline of many others. The charity has proved that with the right information and targeted action, species can be brought back from the brink.

‘Thanks to the wonderful British public who take part in their thousands, the Big Butterfly Count is the largest natural history citizen science project involving insects in the world, and provides us with a valuable snapshot of what is happening for butterflies across the whole of the UK. It can act as an early-warning system, letting us know how various environmental changes are impacting insects and allows us to gather vital data from places that would otherwise be totally unrecorded.’

DR ZOE RANDLE
Senior surveys officer at Butterfly Conservation

Understanding UK butterflies

With the numbers of butterflies in decline, learning as much as possible about them is more important than ever.

The small tortoiseshell, which can be found all over the UK and was once a familiar species in gardens throughout the country, has declined by 79% since 1976.

The small tortoiseshell is one of the species included in the Big Butterfly Count, and Butterfly Conservation hopes that data from citizen scientists will mean more can be understood about its fate.

Worryingly, 2021 also saw the lowest average number of butterflies logged since the event began 13 years ago. More counts are undertaken and submitted year on year, but it seems there are fewer butterflies and moths to be seen.

Butterfly Conservation scientists are keen to see if this is a trend that continues in 2022, and how the picture differs for butterflies across the whole of the UK. This means it’s more important than ever that the public take part and help to gather the data needed.

This year the Big Butterfly Count is sponsored by garden wildlife specialist Vivara and the DFN Foundation, a commissioning charity focused on influencing sustainable change in special needs education, supported employment, healthcare and conservation.

Nature and mental health

Taking part in the Big Butterfly Count is not only good for butterflies – it’s good for humans too. Dr Amir Khan, Butterfly Conservation Ambassador, is one of a number of famous faces supporting the Big Butterfly Count.

‘Spending time in nature is hugely beneficial to our mental health. Just a short amount of time spent in the natural world can alleviate stress, and connecting with nature can help us feel happier and more energised.

‘Watching butterflies for just 15 minutes can be a wonderful and calming experience. It is good for you as well as benefiting butterflies by helping Butterfly Conservation gather the important data they need to understand how to better protect these special insects. It is truly a win-win situation for all of us.’

DR AMIR KHAN
Butterfly Conservation ambassador

Join the Big Butterfly Count

Butterfly Conservation’s Big Butterfly Count (5 July to 07 August) is a UK-wide survey open to everyone, of any age, living in towns, cities or the countryside.

Taking part requires you to spend just 15 minutes in an outdoor space counting the number and type of butterflies, and some day-flying moths, you see. It is easy to do and the more people who do it, the greater the benefits to our understanding of nature and how to help it.

To take part simply click here or download the free Big Butterfly Count app.

‘We really need people’s help this year to help us figure out where our butterflies are and what we need to do to save them. It’s not just the rare species of butterfly – the ones with restricted habitat or foodplants – that we are concerned about. Some of our previously commonly seen butterflies, like the small tortoiseshell, are also declining rapidly.’

DR ZOE RANDLE
Senior surveys officer at Butterfly Conservation

Butterfly trends for 2022

Over 150,000 counts were submitted to the Big Butterfly Count last year – more than ever before. Wo

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